Voice of a Nation

Radio and TV Martí are supposed to remain above politics and provide Cubans with unbiased news. This is not a joke; it only seems like one.

Judging from some expert assessments, Radio Martí may have a ways to go before becoming that model of reliability. A scathing 1998 evaluation by a panel of journalists convened by the FIU Center for International Journalism repeatedly noted a lack of professionalism and balance in news programs at Radio Martí. A 1999 report by the U.S. Department of State's Office of the Inspector General echoed the 1998 criticisms and called for the OCB to correct widespread mismanagement and lack of program monitoring.

Since then there has been at least one fact-finding visit by Washington officials to the OCB headquarters near the Miami airport, and, about ten months ago, the federal agency that administers government broadcast operations completed a highly critical report on Radio Martí's coverage of last year's Elian Gonzalez saga. In any case, neither the station's programming nor personnel has changed essentially since 1998, except for the recent addition to the schedule of an audio version of Cristina, the wildly popular Univision Spanish-language television network show. Cristina also is a favorite of the growing number of Cubans with satellite reception or who patronize Cuba's burgeoning black-market video-rental industry, so perhaps the show will attract more Cuban listeners to Radio Martí.

Washington bureaucrats and OCB employees alike, however, question whether the U.S. government should sponsor a Spanish-language version of Jerry Springer (to be fair, sometimes a better version). And as for the Martís, providing "absolutely reliable" news to an island where all sources of information are state-controlled -- a year ago Radio Martí ignored for four hours one of the biggest breaking stories of the decade, the seizure of Elian Gonzalez in Little Havana. (As a result Radio Martí director Rodriguez-Tejera was suspended for two weeks; there is still dispute over whether Rodriguez-Tejera has ever complied with the sanction.)

Jorge Mas Canosa, the strongman of Cuban-exile politics, greatly influenced the MartĂ­ stations
JK Yearick
Jorge Mas Canosa, the strongman of Cuban-exile politics, greatly influenced the MartĂ­ stations


For related New Times stories, please refer to Who’s Watching Radio and TV Martí?

The White House recently began preparing to fill appointments to the myriad advisory boards and commissions in Washington. Many of the vacancies are on broadcasting-related bodies; still, Republican sources in Tallahassee and Washington expect the Bush administration to take its time getting to Cuba broadcasting appointments -- perhaps not until May or later. Diaz-Balart and San Roman have time and the labyrinth of exile politics on their side.

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